There are few times in life that are as exciting and full of promise as the period of wedding and newlywed planning. People know that their wedding day will be one of the most remembered of their lives. While there is certainly stress involved in making so many decisions, there is also an underlying sense of fun.
Unfortunately, there are some aspects of newlywed planning that are not quite as enjoyable as others. Still, paying attention to things like estate planning and prenuptial agreements help to set up the marriage in a healthy way. Some people will argue against that notion, but marriage lawyers in Atlanta GA have seen the benefits of this kind of preparation.
The prenup itself is a legal contract between the two parties who plan to be married. Just what is covered in the document will depend on you and your future spouse and your circumstances. For example, if this is your first marriage and there are no children involved, your needs will be different than for couples whose marriages will be blending families with stepchildren.
The idea of a prenup is generally to determine how property will be divided should the marriage not survive. It also takes into consideration things such as spousal support that might be extended and the circumstances surrounding it.
State laws vary quite a bit when it comes to prenups, so it’s really important for Atlanta, Georgia, couples to find an attorney that practices within the state. Actually, you will want to find two separate lawyers, as each prospective spouse should have his or her own representation. This is important, not just because it protects each individual’s best interests up front, but because if and when the prenup needs to be upheld, the courts are much more likely to honor it for the same reason.
Not Just for Marriages that End
One mistaken notion that many people have is that prenuptial agreements are only useful if the marriage comes to an end. What commonly gets overlooked is that it is actually a useful tool in avoiding divorce. When couples take the time to outline their thoughts about the financial aspects of their upcoming marriage, they are better able to get on the same page about money, fidelity, and other important topics that the marriage lawyers are going to bring up for discussion.
We help lots of prospective brides or grooms in and around Atlanta plan for their futures together with prenuptial agreements. If you’d like our help, please call us at 770-425-6060.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Divorce Laws in Georgia
Georgia divorce laws have maintained for 13 grounds required for divorce. Among these grounds are adultery and cruel treatment. However, most divorces in Georgia are granted on the no-fault ground that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and without fault or wrongdoing. Additionally, one of the spouses must have resided in Georgia for at least 6 months prior to filing for a decree of divorce in Georgia.
Alimony & Equitable Distribution in Georgia
Georgia is known as an equitable distribution state. According to the divorce laws in Georgia this means that the marital property must be divided fairly or equitably, but not necessarily equally.
Alimony is granted not for the purpose of punishing or rewarding one spouse but to provide an adequate income for the spouse who has become economically dependent on the other. Either spouse then, can be awarded alimony. Such factors as the prior standard of living of the couple and the length of the marriage shall be considered when awarding alimony.
Georgia Child Support, Child Custody and Child Visitation
According to Georgia divorce law, custody of all children must be determined before a divorce will be granted. The parents may decide who receives custody of their children. If they are unable to come to an agreement the court will then resolve the matter. Such issues as the age and gender of the children, the relationship with the parents and which parents has been the primary caregiver will be considered. Additionally, the court must also take into account the wishes of the child regarding the primary residence if he or she is between the ages of 11 and 14. The non-custodial parent will usually be granted visitation rights. However, the parents may also decide upon visitation rights. If they cannot come to an agreement in advance the court will make a determination based upon the schedule for possession of minor children.
Child support is determined by the “child support guidelines” as set forth by divorce law in Georgia. Expect to pay child support until the age of 18 or when the child graduates from high school, whichever is later, but not past the age of 20.
SOURCE: Divorce Interactive
There are many details to think about when you’re planning your wedding; however, a prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement) shouldn’t be left to the last minute. Here’s a list of issues to think about before you speak to your fiance and your lawyer regarding a premarital agreement. If often helps to know your own feelings about these issues before decide to talk to your fiance about them:
Premarital Assets and Debts: You’ll want to make an exhaustive list of your assets and debts that are currently in your name. It’s required for your prenuptial agreement, and it’s also good practice about being up front and straightforward about financial issues with your new marital partner. Below are some questions to think about when thinking about premarital assets and debts:
1. Once you’ve made your list, how will you handle premarital assets and debts in the event of a divorce?
Will the assets and debts remain separate property, meaning that they will go back to the person who accumulated them before the marriage?
Or will your separate property be inter-mingled with your marital property?
2. What if one person’s pre-marital property is used to pay off the other person’s pre-marital debts(i.e. school loans)?
Will the paying party need to be reimbursed, or is it a gift?
3. What if you use premarital property to buy a home you’ll own together? Will the paying party need to be reimbursed, or is it a gift?
Marital Property: Marital property describes the assets and debts that you will accumulate together once you are married. Below are some questions to think about regarding marital property:
The new Georgia child support guidelines become effective January 1, 2007, and apply to all pending civil actions on or after January 1, 2007. Under the new guidelines, there are several steps that are used to arrive at a child support obligation. First, the gross income of both the mother and the father is determined. This income includes amounts from all non-exempt sources and includes: salary, wages, commissions, self-employed income, bonuses, overtime pay, severance pay, pension and retirement income, interest income, dividend income, trust income annuity income, capital gains, Social Security disability payments, worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, judgments from personal injury claims or other civil cases, gifts, prizes, alimony from persons not in the subject case, assets which are used for support of family, fringe benefits that significantly reduce living expenses, and any other income including imputed income. Variable income such as commissions or bonuses must be averaged over a reasonable period of time.
After the gross income of both the mother and father is determined, the income may be adjusted in three ways. If there is self-employed income, there is a reduction for one-half of the self-employment taxes being paid. Secondly, if either parent is paying child support under a preexisting child support order, the monthly gross income of such parent is reduced by the amount of monthly support such parent has been actually paying. Finally, if either parent is supporting his or her own children living in the home, but who are not the subject of this child support determination, the court in its discretion may reduce the gross income after calculating a theoretical child support order. This final adjustment will be difficult to obtain since the court must find the failure to do so would cause a financial hardship on the parent and that such adjustment is in the best interest of the child in the case at hand.
She’s been divorced twice, but Vickie Parks is confident this time she’s found the right man.
The 49-year-old is engaged to Tom Rasmussen, 45. The Colorado couple is planning an August wedding. Parks has three grown children from her previous marriages; it’s the first marriage for Rasmussen. Parks would like them to draft a will at some point, but she thinks they’ll forgo a prenuptial agreement. "We don’t need that," Parks said. "The ring (symbolizes) the commitment that you make to each other for life."
The divorce rate is between 40 percent and 50 percent for first marriages, and is even higher for second and third marriages, yet only about 5 percent of married couples have a prenuptial agreement.
Prenuptial agreements can help to determine how property will be divided upon divorce or the death of one of the partners. They’re not just for the Tom Cruises and Katie Holmeses of the world, experts say. "I’m all in favor of them," said attorney Levi Brooks of Fort Collins, Colo. "Do they make the (divorce) process easier? You still have all the things they acquired during the marriage. But it eliminates (from the negotiations) the major things couples fight about – the property they had before they married," Brooks said.
Couples who might benefit from a prenuptial agreement are often reluctant to bring the subject up, he said. "Part of the hesitation is ‘I don’t want to talk about what happens if we get a divorce,’ " Brooks said.
Prenuptial agreements are becoming more common, but not as common as one might think – given the divorce rate and the increase in the number of couples who are marrying at a later age after they’ve already acquired assets, attorney Scott Walker said.
While Walker handles about 35 divorces a year, some years he doesn’t encounter one divorcing couple with a prenuptial agreement. But he drafts about three to four agreements per year for couples that are marrying.
"Folks are becoming less trusting of their hearts and more trusting of their brains. They want to hedge their bets. In divorce, strange things can happen," he said.
Those who don’t think about a prenuptial agreement until they’ve already tied the knot can draft a similar postnuptial agreement, Walker said.
The cost for prenuptial agreements ranges from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Experts recommend that both parties have a lawyer.
Following are cases in which couples should seriously consider the agreements:
1. When one or both partners has significant assets going into a marriage. A prenuptial agreement can make it clear how that property will be treated if a couple divorces.
2. In a second marriage in which one of the partners has children. A prenuptial agreement can spell out what the first family will inherit if that partner were to die.
Debt incurred before the marriage remains the responsibility of the person who originally borrowed the money, even without a prenup, Brooks said.
But a couple might be wise to decide before they marry whether they will use community property to pay off either partner’s premarital debt, suggests Vickie Bajtelsmit, professor of finance at Colorado State University and author of "The Busy Woman’s Guide to Financial Freedom" (Amer Management, 2001, out of print).
"I’ve heard horror stories where people went in with blinders on. They paid off the debt and their partner disappeared."
One reason people forgo prenups is the feeling that "it won’t happen to me," Bajtelsmit said. "When you are getting married, the first thought is not, ‘Are they going to take my stuff?’ " she said.
On the flip side, some brides or bridegrooms-to-be use prenuptial agreements as a way of avoiding dealing with a lack of trust in their partner, said the Rev. Gary Emery, a marriage and family counselor who leads premarital classes at a number of churches.
"There are those who want a prenuptial because they believe for whatever reason that they can’t trust their partner. They think, ‘I’m not going to deal with that’ and they jump to the prenuptial," Emery said. "The trust issues will follow all the way through the marriage."
SOURCE: Poughkeepsie Journal